Heads question value of performance pay

17th January 2003 at 00:00
Lack of support for 'subjective' and 'under-funded' threshold awards. Warwick Mansell reports

FEWER than one headteacher in three is in favour of performance pay, two years after the scheme was introduced and despite new Government moves to extend it throughout the profession.

A survey of 1,000 heads conducted by academics at Exeter University reveals only 28.6 per cent support it, just as the Government moves to incorporate merit pay into main salary scales.

Comments from respondents included: "The time and bureaucracy involved are horrendous," from a secondary head. And: "Too subjective and open to wide interpretation," from a primary head.

The survey also uncovered serious concerns about funding for the latest round of performance pay, in which thousands of experienced teachers on the upper pay spine are to receive pound;1,000 rises.

Last year, the Government headed off industrial action by headteachers'

leaders over the funding for the merit awards by releasing an extra pound;15-pound;20 million.

But the survey reveals that, despite this, only one head in three believes they have received enough Government money to reward all eligible teachers.

Ted Wragg, professor of education at Exeter, who led the research, said attitudes towards performance pay were virtually unchanged from a similar survey, carried out as the scheme was introduced in 2000.

He said: "The argument the Government has always used was that heads would get behind performance pay as they got used to it. This suggests the opposite. I would find it very disappointing if I were the Government."

The School Teachers' Review Body is due to make a recommendation on ministers' proposals to extend performance pay throughout the profession later this month.

The survey also raises questions about the effectiveness of performance management, the system linked to pay in which teachers' performance is assessed against a series of objectives.

Although just over half said it had some impact on classroom practice, only one in 10 believed it had made a big difference. One of those who criticised it said: "It's an additional burden which is not achieving anything of consequence."

The survey supports claims that the pupil testing regime is now driven at least in part by the need to provide data to assess teachers' performance, after 97 per cent of heads said their staff had been set objectives linked to pupil attainment.

Professor Wragg said that despite many having reservations, heads were committed to implementing it effectively, some having "written off weeks" to do so.

The survey findings are to be published in full later this year.

Leadership grant, 9

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